"He is thought to be helping groom Kim Jong Un by providing him information as well as some political protection," Hamisevicz said.
Also escorting Kim's hearse was People's Armed Forces Minister Kim Yong Chun, who controls military logistics and training, according to Gause. In a Jan. 28 state media report, Kim Yong Chun, 75, was mentioned second only to Ri Yong Ho in a list of top aides who accompanied Kim Jong Un to a military concert.
Kim Ki Nam, 82, is credited with orchestrating the legends surrounding the Kim family and serves as the main ideologue for the country, according to the World Institute for North Korea Studies in South Korea.
Kim Jong Gak is a senior political officer in the Korean People's Army, while U Tong Chuk is a top state security official. On Jan. 9, Kim Jong Gak was mentioned prominently at a massive rally of army, navy and air force troops pledging loyalty to Kim Jong Un. U Tong Chuk has attended two concerts with the new leader this year, according to state media.
Rounding out the entourage in the funeral procession was Choe Thae Bok, the longtime chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly and a member of the Politburo who has led a number of North Korean delegations overseas. Choe is 81, according to the South Korean government.
Other important advisers include Premier Choe Yong Rim, who despite being in his 80s has been making the types of inspection trips to factories, construction sites and power plants that were once Kim Jong Il's purview; and Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and the country's nominal head of state.
Two other top officers, wearing gray parkas, have accompanied Kim on military inspections recently: Kim Myong Guk, a 71-year-old General Staff director of operations; and Kim Won Hong, a top political officer who is reportedly in charge of military personnel appointments. Gause says Kim Won Hong heads one of the bodies that form an "inner ring for internal security inside North Korea."
One of these men is invariably at Kim Jong Un's side. State media, in a dispatch released early Wednesday, said Ri Yong Ho, Kim Yong Chun and Kim Myong Guk accompanied Kim Jong Un on a tour of an army unit, the latest in a string of military visits by the new leader.
"While Kim might enjoy real authority, it is his relationship with the leadership support system around him that will determine the latitude he has to make decisions on his own," Gause said.
The elderly leaders who lived through the Korean War are being replaced by a new generation of senior leaders in their 40s, 50s and 60s and numbering perhaps 5,000, according to a recent report by Peter Hayes, Scott Bruce and David von Hippel of the Nautilus Institute think tank.
The analysts said Kim Jong Un and his "senior advisers are likely to seek continuity with the past as the basis for smooth sailing in 2012 while they concentrate on domestic issues."
Klug reported from Seoul, South Korea. Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim and Sam Kim also contributed to this story from Seoul. Follow AP Korea bureau chief Jean H. Lee at twitter.com/newsjean and Foster Klug at twitter.com/APklug.
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